I had one of those ‘vivid dreams’ that seem extremely real just before waking this morning. I dreamt that RTHK Radio 3 news reported a proposal by environmental activists that the Hong Kong government formulate a serious policy on agriculture and food production. Specifically, they suggested that the city should adopt a target for food self-sufficiency and grow (to take their example) 30% of its own vegetables. And they weren’t talking trendy techie Hydroponics Hub hype; they wanted to preserve farmland, with all that yucky soil and fertilizer stuff.
In the office, I check the newspapers, Google News, the RTHK website and the Designing HK and Paul Zimmerman websites and Facebook pages, and find no mention of this, which is when I realize I must have dreamt it. Which all makes sense, really. Specialty organic gardens are great. But the idea that a city of 7 million crammed among steep mountains and a harbour should attempt to grow large amounts of food sounds pretty far-fetched. Why not build 30% of our cars, trucks, ships and aircraft? Why not manufacture 30% of our electronics, furniture or clothing? This is the basic economic principle of comparative advantage: produce what you are better and best at. We even import our dish-washing services from the Philippines and Indonesia. Strange things, dreams.
Then again, real life gets pretty unbelievable. Speaking yesterday to an investment conference, of all things, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung invited voters to kick out pan-democrat lawmakers at the next elections, which are 18 months away. Even if he weren’t embarrassing himself before an international audience (again), he was being rash. CY is himself unelected, unless you count the miserable 689 mainly Beijing-directed ballots cast for him in the ‘Election Committee’, so he is hardly in a moral position to talk about voting democratically elected lawmakers out. Meanwhile, the electoral law bars the CE from membership of a political party, which suggests that he is expected to be above petty party factionalism. On top of that, 18 months is a long time. It is hard to imagine him wanting help from the pan-dems in that period, but why deepen enmity for no obvious reason? This is a man who has few enough friends as it is. The pan-dems, for all their exasperating lameness, can still scrape a majority of votes from a populace that gives a resounding thumbs-down to CY in opinion polls. It’s unwise tactics as well: how many bored or undecided registered voters will now plan to vote pan-dem just to spite him? Even some pro-government figures are distancing themselves from these comments.
When CY came into office in 2012 against the wishes and expectations of the tycoon-bureaucrat establishment, he had a relatively reformist manifesto and an opportunity to carve out some sort of populist support base. But implementing Xi Jinping’s paranoid clampdown in Hong Kong, especially after the Occupy-Umbrella movement, is now the only priority. CY’s mission is now to crush the Communist Party’s real or imagined local enemies. He appears to be enjoying it immensely, to the point that (as even the Standard’s editorial hints) it’s looking like hubris. Across the spectrum, people have hoped things might calm down a bit. But they can dream on: this is going to get uglier. (To expand slightly on ‘hubris’ and ‘uglier’, let us recall that the Chinese Communist Party does not reciprocate loyalty; it ditches, kicks in the teeth, chews up and spits out its most obedient, fervent and groveling minions the second they are more trouble than they are worth.)
Nasty gossipy unattributed hearsay tittle-tattle… A highly reliable source tells me: “a well known International Brewing company of Danish origin is paying bar owners in Hong Kong $HK200,000 each NOT to stock any ‘craft beers’ imported by local small importers…”
This sort of (alleged, etc) practice is probably quite common. It’s why we should avoid tacky bars and favour small independent outlets. For a multinational to pay a retailer not to carry obscure micro-breweries’ products is essentially to admit ‘our beer tastes like crap’. Why not cut out the bar-management middle-man and go straight to the consumer? Walk up to ordinary men and women on the street, drop to your knees and beg: ‘I’ll give you this clean, crisp HK$100 if you drink our company’s bat’s piss rather than that fancy IPA from Oregon’. Humiliate yourself for market share. A reminder – as if one were needed – that people who work in sales and promotions must have done unspeakable things in their previous life.